Section 3.6. Watching TV on a PC

3.6. Watching TV on a PC

TV sets make lousy PC monitors , but PCs and their displays make great TV sets. In fact, some PCs already include a TV tuner that lets them double as high-quality TV sets. If you're not lucky enough to own one of those fancy models, though, upgrading your PC to display television rarely merits the cost, for several reasons.

First, most PCs have small, 15-or 17-inch monitors that are usually parked in front of a single chaira far cry from the living room's big TV, comfy couch , and nearby popcorn maker.

Second, adding TV to a PC costs between $50 and $150that's more cash than it takes to pick up some new TVs. Finally, TV-equipped PCs can record shows to your hard drive, but they lack the finesse of dedicated TV recorders like TiVo or Replay TV ($100 to $250), which automatically record shows according to your tastes.

So, why bother? Some upgraders don't own TVs or don't want to buy a second one for their offices. Others want to record shows, but despise paying the monthly dues required by TiVo or ReplayTV. Some newshounds want CNN sitting in a corner of their desktop. And some folks simply like to tinker with their PCs.

Your PC needs two things to morph into a TV:

  • The TV signal . TV shows already stream into your house from the cable company, satellite dish, or a roof antenna; they then enter your house through a cable. Unplug that cable from the back of your TV (if you use an antenna) or from your cable or satellite box. Plug that cable into a signal splitter a two-dollar gadget (shown in Figure 3-9) that splits one cable into two ports.

    Plug two additional cables into the splitter's two ports; one of those cables plugs back into your TV (if you use an antenna) or cable box, and the other plugs into your PC's new TV tuner, described next .

  • The TV tuner . TV tuners, which cost between $50 and $150, come mainly as drop-in cards (Section 1.7), although a few come as plug-in USB (Section 1.8.1) boxes. Add one to your PC, plug the cable carrying your TV shows into the tuner card's port, and install the tuner's bundled software.

    Both Hauppauge ( and ATI ( sell TV tuners for PCs. For more information about adding TV tuners or recording shows to your PC, check out The Build Your Own PVR Web site (

To switch between channels 2 through 99, load the software bundled with your PC TV tuner. The software places a little keypad on your screen for switching between channels with the mouse or keyboard's numeric keypad.

Note: To tune in channels above 99including pay channelsconnect the splitter after the cable leaves your cable/satellite box. That lets the cable box unscramble the signals before routing them to your PC, which then displays the signal on channel 3 or 4. Unfortunately, this also means you need to use the cable box's remote to change channels.

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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